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The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

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Thomas Beach
Sun 18 Nov 2007Link

Thanks, John. I look forward to checking the link out.

Not sure I understand the thrust of your "workflow" comment. That said, my intent is to scan images and edit them into my project using FCP Studio 2 including both my sound design and DVD authoring. I expect I will need Photoshop or Aperture to manipulate images? I intend shooting with either the P2 or the XL-H1 for interviews. Specific format TBD although I am leaning toward one of the HD formats. I am also still considering shooting GV's and the like with my NPR (I still prefer film where possible). As this is a one-man production, I expect to perform my own final mix (I'm a production recordist by trade) and simply author to DVD and self-distribute. I hope I have answered your questions? Again, any help you can offer is most appreciated.

Tom Beach


John Burgan
Sun 18 Nov 2007Link

Well you should certainly make the decision about what format you are shooting and delivering on. Not sure how the mix of film and video will work.


Thomas Beach
Sun 18 Nov 2007Link

Agreed. I have some research to do on that yet. I'm beginning project research in December and the aquisition of photos etc. No shooting for some time yet. Film telecined with proper parameters to match project settings should present no issues.


Monica Williams
Tue 20 Nov 2007Link

At what phase of my project will I need to hire an entertainment lawyer? I have an attorney now that has drafted an offering memo for a group of investors interested in my film. They are lawyers and I'm sure they will be asking some legal questions. Will I need an entertainment lawyer throughout the project?


Doug Block
Tue 20 Nov 2007Link

Certainly no harm in finding one you like early on in the process. You only pay them by the hour, as needed, so why not?


Steven Dhoedt
Wed 21 Nov 2007Link

Hi all,

I've got a question concerning a contract between director and production company, more specifically the part which deals with the audiovisual exploitation rights.
What is an acceptable percentage for the director/screenwriter to receive of the gross income for a) cinema release b) dvd release c) tv sceenings, etc... I know this all comes down to what producer and director agree upon, but just wanted to know if there is an average percentage that is usually agreed upon.
As a beginning producer and documentary maker this is all new to me, so just looking for some feedback or online resources that can guide me through the business process of documentary production :)


Doug Block
Wed 21 Nov 2007Link

Stephen, unless you're Spielberg and talking about a big Hollywood movie, directors don't get any percentage of gross income. If they're lucky, they get a percentage of net income. Which, after all the bills are paid off (a BIG if), is known as profit. And how much is pretty much done by negotiation on a case by case basis.


Tony Comstock
Wed 21 Nov 2007Link

Thom,

If you want to shoot film, shoot film. Five years ago we made the move to shooting Super16 for everything except interviews. I think it's helped our projects both commercially and financially.


Steven Dhoedt
Wed 21 Nov 2007Link

Thanks Doug for your answer.
it makes sense that giving a percentage of the gross income is not really done, since the production budgets of most documentaries already include distribution advances, tv presales etc., money that is directly in the actual making of the movie, not raising the director's salary. Correct?
I'd been receiving some standard contracts between director and production company and they all included paragraphs where you should fill in the blank percentages for these exploitation rights.
anyways, thanks a lot for your help


Doug Block
Wed 21 Nov 2007Link

No problemo, Stephen. We live to serve...


Steven Dhoedt
Thu 22 Nov 2007Link

One more question about exploitation rights:
what is the average length in years that the author/director should concede the exploitation rights of the movie to the producer? 5 years? 10 years?
Can this duration affect future distribution deals or do they not affect each other at all?


Jo-Anne Velin
Thu 22 Nov 2007Link

Stephen, I won't answer concretely because I don't have the answeres, but can suggest given your interest, you might want to continue by googling independent producers' "terms of trade" and "video on demand rights" for various countries, and also explore through any independent filmmaker unions, where you are involved (Is there one in Belgium? If not, if you can handle German look at AGDOK's website, and the UK's PACT ). Electronic media rights are a hotly contested issue. "Should" concede is different from "do". Your questions are clear but the answer can be very complex and depend on territory, it seems to me. I have no knowledge about the US, please note.

"Terms of trade" are just the rules of the game, as agreed by participants,where the percentages and timeframes are spelled out across a sector of the industry. In the UK for example, terms of trade were recently agreed between PACT (indy producers/directors) and various public broadcasters. If you are in Belgium and working locally, my guess is you really do need to talk directly with your more experienced colleagues working in the same market.

Maybe see if you can access the European Documentary Network's magazine, DOX from this fall. I wrote a piece about VoD rights for them and you will appreciate the companion pieces in the same issue that were extracted from other sources – especially a compact version of the PACT agreements (really useful if you are new to the topic). Try EDN on-line. Good luck!


Riley Morton
Fri 23 Nov 2007Link

Stephen,
you should get Mark Litwak's book called 'risky business'


Steven Dhoedt
Mon 26 Nov 2007Link

Thanks Jo-Anne and Riley for the info and suggestions!


Thomas Beach
Mon 26 Nov 2007Link

In weighing my options regarding format, I am strongly considering SD and the use of the AG-DVX100B camera. This consideration is clearly money-driven. I would appreciate feedback regarding the current viability of SD, given the present wave of multiple HD formats and the market. Am I severly limiting my market potential by shooting SD? I don't expect theatrical release. Thanks in advance for your input.

Tom Beach


Tony Comstock
Mon 26 Nov 2007Link

I think you've got the cart in front of the horse. Shooting HD (or better yet, film) will expand your market potential, and (perhaps more importantly) your marketing potential.


Doug Block
Tue 27 Nov 2007Link

No need to sign your posts, Tom. It appears LIKE MAGIC automatically above every post.


Brian Boyko
Fri 30 Nov 2007Link

Tom: With the Canon HV20 shooting HD video for $800 or less in some areas, I so no reason to go HD. You can always downrez to SD but you'll want an HD copy of your tapes to "futureproof" the footage.

Me, I'm shooting in HD because I don't know what I'm going to do with the footage yet.


Brian Boyko
Fri 30 Nov 2007Link

Speaking of which – anyone know where I can get a Ph.D. in Documentary Film in an English-speaking country outside the United States?


Malgosia Askanas
Tue 4 Dec 2007Link

Dear All,

On the dust jacket of Vladimir Dedijer's book "The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican" it says that Gottfried Niemietz, who wrote the Foreword to the book, "has worked on two documentary films about the [then] current civil war in Yugoslavia, which have been broadcast worldwide via satellite." Coud anybody tell me what those two films were, or point me to a possible source of this information? Many thanks for any help you can provide.


Jo-Anne Velin
Wed 5 Dec 2007Link

I did a quick search but came up with two lawyers by the same name. It is possible he is one of them. Just google (german word for lawyer is Rechtsanwahlt).

Fastest way to the right person is to contact the author or publisher of the book.

If GN has 'worked on' a doc, then maybe just as consultant or researcher or similar that might not show up on a google search.

Alternative, look up films on Jasenovac, and related, then scan credits. Tis possible he will show up that way.

http://www.jasenovac.org/videos.php – Jasenovac research centre in NYC
good luck.


Monica Williams
Wed 5 Dec 2007Link

Hello everyone,

I could use some advice on organizing my last phase of production. I have already shot an extensive interview with the author of the book I'm adapting. I have a pretty good idea of the structure I will be using for the film, but I'm not locked into it. I now have images to research and gather and some more people to interview. For a historical/essay documentary (Ken Burns and Adam Curtis are my best models) which should come first – the interviews or the gathering of images. I can see the good in doing both first. I have a background in art history and the 20th century, so I have a pretty good idea of what images are out there. Thanks!


Riley Morton
Wed 5 Dec 2007Link

Never having made a film in the Ken Burns style myself, here is how i would approach the next steps on (what i know about) this film:

view post production as the place where the film will likely find its voice. as such, you'll want to assemble the foundation and structure of the film AS you acquire the Broll and illustrating material. Even if you know right where to go for all the images that you hope to use in the film, it will undboubtedly take much longer than you anticipate to get the rights to use all those stills and Broll/archival material. Of course, you may claim fair use on all that material, and decide not to pay for rights – but that is a bigger question for you and an entertainment lawyer to answer together after much research.

do this simultaneously with shooting interviews and other scenes that you want to include. But I'd recomend starting right now. You say that you've got a structure that you want to use in the film – sounds like using this big interview as the skeleton. Open up a new FCP project, and save it as "Evil01" import all the usable clips from your big interview, and start laying it down on the timeline in the structure that you imagine. How does it flow so far? Did you get everything you needed from your subject? what else do you need to add? which concepts need to (or can) be explained by other interviewees/sources? which examples in history have stills/film that you can cull from? are you finding the right balance to make the material engaging for your audience? start work on getting all those assets, and by repeating the questions above over and over for many many months, you can start to see your film take shape in the way that you want to get your message through. a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – and making a great documentary is in many ways a longer journey than that. you've already taken a few big steps, which is more than 98% of wannabe doc makers take, but now its time to jump in the difficult questions of how to best tell your story. it seems to me that jumping into post production, along with creating the beginnings of a paper edit and maybe a white board to outline structure – and you are well on your way! its going to be a great learning experience – and hopefully you'll have a great film in the end as well!


Monica Williams
Thu 6 Dec 2007Link

Thanks so much Riley for the thoughtful and valuable advice! It makes perfect sense to go about it this way and I don't know why I was thinking there had to be an order. This is a huge journey, I'd say closer to a million miles. I began two years ago with no idea the work that goes into these films. I Can't believe how much respect I've developed for the people behind this craft. Hope everything is alright in Seattle – stay dry!


Riley Morton
Thu 6 Dec 2007Link

my basement got a touch damp – but its dry now...;)

good luck, Monica- keep us posted.


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